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“Life is how you perceive it” said my father as he looked at me through the rear-view mirror. At the time I didn’t understand, and nodded my head to appease him as he dropped me off to school. I was too young to fully grasp the concept that our perception creates our reality. However, five years later, I recalled my father’s words as I was watching Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful. Benigni tells the story of an Italian Jewish family that becomes a victim of the Holocaust, and the father’s effort to create an imaginative world for his child in a concentration camp. Life is Beautiful is the movie that I would choose for everyone in the world to see; that is because people, with their different views and statuses, can find relatable themes in its plot.

This movie is about finding happiness in the most tragic circumstances. Since not everyone in the world shares the same experiences, it is important that we identify the world we are going to discuss in order to draw the line from which we can build arguments. For the sake of this essay, I will divide the world in accordance to the three main socioeconomic classes: socially high class and financially prosperous communities; socially middle class and financially decent; and lower class with scarce sources. I think that Life is Beautiful is a universal movie in the context of the aforementioned classifications, and below are reasonings to support it.

For the spectators that come from lower class communities, this movie is a cathartic experience. The ability to sit in front of a screen and watch the depiction of their lives, or a situation that they experienced, is therapy. One might remember the time when he had to make up a story to explain to his kids why there was no dinner, as he watches Guido (Roberto Benigni) trying to convince his son that this deadly camp is a game. The lonely woman in Yemen whose husband was drafted can see herself in Dora’s (Nicoletta Braschi) eyes as Dora stands against the window thinking about her husband and kid. The refugees in a camp somewhere in Europe can find inspiration in the film as to how they can minimize the psychological damage in their children. Life is Beautiful might not be a story that is specific to everyone, but it surely is a depiction of life to which this group can relate.

For middle class communities, this this is a comforting story. “He who sees the calamity of other people finds his own calamity light” said the old Arabs, and Life is Beautiful is a depiction of a time-period that is like no other. Life has been a little unfair for the middle class, but it was rather atrocious for people who experienced WWII and people who are living in poverty or displacement nowadays. Guido and his family are in a concentration camp, and yet he finds ways to employ hardships in creating a better world for his child, and maybe himself. The incredible application of contrast between the actual event and Guido’s reactions is both painful and motivating. It is motivating for the spectators who are desperate and think that life conspires to defeat them. It inspires them to use harsh situations as inspiration to find the good and create better worlds for themselves.

This is also a movie for those who are privileged but still unable to find happiness. It is a movie to reflect on their lives and realize that nothing should be taken for granted; life owes us nothing. While it is a cathartic experience for lower classes, this story teaches “high class” audiences to be content, which, as suggested by Aristotle, leads to happiness.

While the aforementioned classes interpret the story differently, there is a larger theme which can be agreed upon by the three groups: we have to cope with the changes of life, as we maintain hope. Everyone needs some kind of hope to continue striving in this life, and Benigni provides a perfect depiction to that. Ten years ago, the reflection of my father’s eyes on the rear-view mirror ingrained the notion of “Life is how you perceive it”, and Benigni helped it grow. Life is Beautiful is a story for the struggling farmer, the exhausted teacher, and depressed businessman; it is for everyone in the world to experience.

 

 

 

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